"Valerie Gillies writes like the wind and jinks like a hare in the fields of language"
Valerie Gillies creates a poetry that lives up to Scotland’s resurgent powers.
Her language is musical, her themes elemental. Mapping the country as she finds it today, she is alive to immediate experience.
"Born in Canada, brought up in Lanarkshire, and educated in Edinburgh and India...
Gillies writes a richly varied poetry which celebrates life."
Douglas Gifford, Scottish Literature
Valerie Gillies is an internationally known and highly regarded poet. She was the Edinburgh Maker, poet laureate to the city, 2005 - 2008.
Her poetry collections include Tweed Journey (1989) which has been described as ‘a key text in contemporary writing’ (SB Kelly). Other award-winning volumes include Each Bright Eye (1977), The Ringing Rock (1995) and The Lightning Tree (2002). She is a regular contributor to major anthologies.
Valerie writes in regions from the Borders to the Highlands, from the Inner Hebrides to the Angus glens, from Orkney to Galloway.
She often works collaboratively with visual artists, notably in a series of poem-inscriptions with different sculptors at sites in southern Scotland. The book Men and Beasts: Wild Men and Tame Animals of Scotland (2000), together with the touring exhibition of the same name, was the result of a year-long collaboration with the photographer Rebecca Marr.
She received a Creative Scotland Award in 2005 to write The Spring Teller, a book of landmark poems inspired by Scotland’s wells and springs (Luath, 2008).
Valerie is an inspirational teacher of creative writing in schools, colleges, and universities, and she has held several writing fellowships across the country. She is a literary arts practitioner in psychiatric and general hospitals with Artlink. She has edited the Scottish Poetry Library’s first-ever Poetry Map of Scotland, which maps locations and living poets on their interactive website.
Valerie lives in Edinburgh with her husband, the Celtic scholar Professor William Gillies. They have a son and two daughters.
'Best Loved Poems'
A few poems to sample:
'The Wedding Reel'
'Maeve in Manhattan' (Audio from The Jewel Box CD)
News & Updates
‘The Harp to Aeolus’Poem-inscription for the Wind-Harp made from the wood of the wych-elm tree by Mark Norris, harp-maker, for the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh.See Valerie recite online in the film of The Wych Elm Project
Summer Exhibition 2016Work in progress with Anna S King, fibre artist, for Dawyck Botanic Garden. Scottish Borders.
CRITICAL ACCLAIMTo read about Valerie’s poetry, seeHunter, Fraser, and Keppie, Lawrence, A Roman Frontier Post and its People: Newstead 1911 – 2011, National Museums Scotland, 2012. www.nms.ac.uk/books
Northwords Now, Issue 23, Spring 2013, pp.20-21. The Spring Teller by Valerie Gillies: Review by Ted Bowman. www.northwordsnow.co.uk
"all the time I was there I was walking in your poem"
Anne Matheson, Biggar Public Art
"Gillies' poetry shows a masterly fluency with form kept taut by its over-riding themes... this is polyglot poetry, yet it has a remarkably unbookish and outdoors feel."
S B Kelly, Scotland on Sunday
Valerie Gillies' poetry collections include The Ringing Rock (1995) and The Lightning Tree (2002). She is a regular contributor to major anthologies such as The Faber Book of Scottish Poetry. Valerie has won the Eric Gregory Award for Poetry and three Scottish Arts Council book Awards.
Her work includes many collaborative projects with visual artists and musicians, notably in a series of poem-inscriptions with different sculptors at sites in Southern Scotland. The book Men and Beasts: wild men and tame animals of Scotland (2000), together with the touring exhibition of the same name, was the result of a collaboration with the photographer Rebecca Marr.
"A poet of unusual technical ability"
Shirley Toulson, British Book News
"I like the way in which these poems are rooted in the elemental world... the craft and truth are one."
Robert Nye, The Times
"Gillies writes of place, history, landscape, myth and legend. The Lightning Tree will enhance her reputation... Its language is musical, energetic, approachable; its subject-matter, life enhancing and invigorating; its themes fundamental and provocative."
Douglas Lipton, Northwords
Where to Buy
Copies of Valerie's books are available to buy from:
The Scottish Poetry Library Bookshop
Luath Press Bookshop
Amazon The Book Depository
Collections of Poetry
Contributions to Anthologies, selected
Poetry in Public Places
Valerie Gillies has been inspired to create intensely collaborative works
'Valerie Gillies has been inspired to create intensely collaborative works with contemporary sculptors. The poems from these public arts installations, though included in The Lightning Tree (2002), must be seen with their sculptures in order to be fully understood, since they transform the landscape through the ever-present perception of the viewer.In this way, Gillies finally creates an art form that lives up to the Scottish landscape's 'recreative' (rather than definitive) powers."
Professor Laura SeverinNorth Carolina State University
Poetry by Valerie Gillies for site-specific installations.
2007 Inscription for the opening of the new Edinburgh City Council headquarters at Waverley Court
2005 A Place Apart, text handwritten by Valerie Gillies and screenprinted by Evelyn Pottie for The Quiet Room, Marie Curie Hospice, Edinburgh
2002 Below the Surface, text set in Albertus and screenprinted by Brian McBeath for The Trimontium Trust Museum, Melrose
2001 Ballad of Leaderfoot, text on stone seats, with sculptor and letter-carver Gary Fay, Leaderfoot near Melrose
2001 The Glide, text in bronze, with sculptor Denys Mitchell, at Coldstream
2001 Quick Water, text in bronze, with sculptor Jake Harvey, at Kirroughtree, Galloway Forest Park
1998 Tweed's Well, panel text in stone, with sculptor Fly Freeman, at the source of the River Tweed
Exhibitions Cross media work with visual artists
Poems by Prescription, Artlink Hospital Galleries, Edinburgh and Lothians
Public readings and events (selected)
2020 Online readings for Maggie's Centres
Maggie's Centre - Developing and delivering Journalling, Creative Writing and Writers' Café courses
Lapidus - Valerie delivers training for trainers on the Lapidus programme
"The Spring Teller has become a project on a grand scale. I continue to travel to the springs and wells,
learning the lore surrounding them and the cures sought at them."
The Spring Teller Project
Valerie Gillies received a Creative Scotland Award in 2005 to write The Spring Teller, a book of landmark poems inspired by Scotland’s wells and springs. She completed this after travelling to many locations in Scotland and Ireland. The collection was published by Luath in 2008.
Find out about The Sping Teller
Read a selection of poetry from The Spring Teller...
The Balm Well
At Brandy Well
Note: Writing the Balm Well and Monk's Well (St Andrews) has changed the environment of these wells. Performing the poems in public has encouraged local residents to look after their own wells in a more fitting manner. The power of poetry!
Read about the future of The Spring Teller Buy the book "The Spring Teller"
A spatchcock town, the ribcage split openlike a skellie, a kipper, a guttit haddie.
Valerie Gillies was the Edinburgh Makar, poet laureate to the city, in 2005. Her 'official' poems include The Balm Well in 2005, A Place Apart in 2006 and To Edinburgh, a poem composed for the opening by HRH Princess Anne of the new Edinburgh District Council building, Waverley Court, in 2007.
Poet Valerie Gillies and photographer Rebecca Marr read their book Men and Beasts with Scottish deerhound friends in Makars' Court, the writers' museum, Edinburgh- Royal Mile.
Read the poem "To Edinburgh" here.